In this dissertation, I analyze the development and dissemination of state-level policies to prohibit colleges from considering criminal history for purposes of admissions otherwise known as ban the box in higher education. This research engages with practical and instructive questions of how individuals or coalitions can learn from other policy campaigns to strategically reduce the collateral consequences of criminal convictions. I conducted a collective case study of the first five states to introduce ban the box in higher education legislation, namely New York, Illinois, Maryland, Louisiana, and Washington. I used critical discourse analysis to analyze all available media and social media content to identify where legislation was filed and major stakeholders. I then transcribed and analyzed all available legislative hearings and interviewed key stakeholders to determine the dominant discourses within and across five states. The study found that legislators and advocates evoked the following arguments in opposition to ban the box in higher education: positive self/ negative other, paternalistic decision making, uselessness, and fear of the undeserving. In support, advocates and legislators used arguments that emphasized individual benefits, community benefits, and diversity. Advocates in support also presented personal testimony from formerly incarcerated students and alumni to humanize people with convictions. The findings illuminate possible strategies and barriers to passing supportive policy that reduces collateral consequences and limits the reach of the criminal legal system.